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Peace is Not Quiet

“Peace’s sister is justice.” Here is why we get ‘peace’ wrong – and why making peace (real peace) is about storytelling and story-hearing.

(Transcript of the image: “You keep pairing me with quiet,” Peace said, “but my true companion is the mighty clamor of chains being ripped clean from the wall.” – Lort Hetteen.)

Peace’s sister is justice:

“Peace was more than stillness. More than sleep. More than numbness, more than the absence of conflict. Peace was consolation and wholeness. Peace was two men breaking bread together, forgiving an old quarrel. Peace was a mother holding her infant up to its father for the first time, or a mother opening her eyes to greet her child after long illness. Peace was two lovers in each other’s arms after a long, good night. Peace was an open door and a wall torn down.”

That’s from No Lasting Burial, a novel that you can get here: https://stantlitore.com/product/no-lasting-burial/ Or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ATVTX2K. You would really like the book.

Here is why we think of peace as quiet, when it is anything but:

“The word ‘eirene’ in Koine Greek is profoundly different from ‘peace’ in English, to such an extent that when we translate it as ‘peace’ and read it in an English New Testament, we may read from the text a meaning opposite to that a first-century Christian would have. Consider what we often mean when we say ‘peace’ in English. We tell our dead to rest in peace, we ask for peace and quiet, we ‘make peace’ by ending a battle—because our ‘peace’ is a descendant of the Roman ‘pax,’ which means the absence of conflict. It means order, silence. Yet for many, the Pax Romana was a false peace and an oppression. The Greek word is ‘eirene,’ which comes from the verb eiro, which means to tie or weave. An appeal to eirene is not a call for order or the cessation of conflict; it is a call for interdependency—for a community ‘woven together.’ In a perfectly ordered pax, in a stable status quo with no conflict, people may find themselves stacked on top of each other in orderly castes and not woven together at all; lives may be prevented from full-flourishing because privileging the absence of conflict above all else keeps issues from being resolved, reconciled, or forgiven. But in eirene, we don’t silence dissent or brush issues and conflicts under the rug—*we* are the rug. Woven together in community like a thousand colored threads in a brilliant tapestry. … Rather than resting on top of each other in separate layers of society, the writers of the Greek New Testament imagined an integration of all people into the warp and weft of a shared community.”

We need more of that kind of peace. That is the peace I will pray for, yearn for, fight for, and try always, with my stories, to weave. The quote is from Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, which you can get here: https://stantlitore.com/product/unforgetting/ Or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NTRT4DP People who have read it call it a must-read.

Real peace requires hearing everyone’s story, and creating the conditions in which everyone’s story can be heard. One more quote on peace and justice, from a novel:

“For Dmitri, raised by Ticktocks and abandoned by Ticktocks, justice was an objective thing. Your clock tells wrong or it tells right. Sometimes, the universe’s clock is off the hour and has to be set right. Everything must be counted and accounted for, especially blood spent and spilled. But Katya and I are of the humming people. For us, justice is not a matter of the hours told right but of songs finished, melodies made complete, tales that reach satisfying ends, and no teller’s tale ending too soon. My Mom’s tale ended too soon. No matter how hard the story, you don’t give up until it’s told. When you see another trying to sing and they can’t, you help them. If someone has no voice, you help them make a drum and you learn sign. If someone is captive, slaved by raiders, you break their bonds, take the gag from their mouth, and get them out into the free prairie where they can sing again. If red rain falls, you get everyone under shelter where the hum of their heartbeats can continue, however frightened and quick. You never give up, just as the Founder herself never gave up. You sing and you love and you hum with life until your very last breath, and you do what you can so others get to breathe and sing, too, until all our tales and all our lives are braided together.”

That’s Sasha Nightwatcher speaking, from Incursion (The Dakotaraptor Riders, Book One), which you can find here: https://stantlitore.com/product/incursion/ Or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08N1LFFRB. Or on Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Incursion-Audiobook/B0947NDSSN. And you would love it – it’s an exciting read and a thrilling ride over an alien prairie.

It takes place on the planet Peace, which is not a quiet planet.

Stant Litore

P.S. If you have been loving my work, whether the fiction or the nonfiction, please come support my work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/stantlitore A membership at a very small amount gets you a lot of great reads, and it helps me do more of this. The stories we tell are how we weave peace, and I hope mine will do a small part in that. Come join me. I could use the help, and you could use the stories.

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The Plague of Kaiju Frog

One day, I am going to write the version of the Exodus story in which Egypt, rather than being plagued by millions of tiny frogs, is hit by one giant, hungry, Kaiju Frog. Leaping past the pyramids at Giza and alarming the night with its thunderous croak! Hopping to crash into the roof of Pharaoh’s palace, mistaking the sun-heated brick for a colossal lilypad. Long-tongued, slurping up citizens like flies.

(This post brought to you because a friend reminded me of how in Hebrew, the singular rather than the plural is used for the Plague of Frog.)

Stant

P.S. Want more language-and-the-bible nerdiness? You’ll want this book, Lives of Unforgetting: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NTRT4DP

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Stories that Make Us Smaller, Stories that Make Us Bigger

Stories give us opportunities to explore our instinctive responses to the other; vicariously, we discover opportunities to either welcome or reject the marvelous encounter with the other. Which we choose is then a matter of how limited or expansive our imagination might be. Like Lovecraft, we might stop at fear, or like Borges, we might hold all possibilities in magnificent tension, open our eyes, and say, “Well met by moonlight, stranger.”

That is a gift—one of seven gifts that speculative fiction has for us in this dark hour. Often sold at bookstores as “science fiction and fantasy,” sometimes as horror, sometimes snuck into the shelves of “literary” fiction, speculative fiction simply means wonder stories. Fiction that speculates, that asks improbable questions, that indulges curiosity, that climbs back down the ladder to look at the strange thing that is approaching from behind, to face it without fear, to face it like Theseus facing the King Horse, holding out a lump of salt. These are the stories we need right now, and I want to talk with you about why, and what healing and opening of our hearts and imaginations might be possible if we allow it. We live in a time when we are being asked to accept stories told by people whose hearts are famished and grinchlike, stories that make us smaller; we are in such need of stories that make us bigger, stories that empower us to imagine larger worlds than the cages we have been constructing for ourselves. Stories that help us imagine that the fence between us and the other is no insurmountable barrier, and that all the fences and all the walls between us and our many kindred on this earth are unworthy of our respect, that we needn’t heed them, that it is better to break them, or tumble them, or clamber over them with a canteen of water, with a blanket to offer warmth, with ears ready to hear another’s story.

– from the opening chapter of On the Other Side of the Night

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The Night Land

This week’s read for me is The Night Land, which I last read ten years ago, and previously, ten years before that. That novel, published in 1912, was incredibly formative for me, and I have never read another book that rivals it for extravagance and scope of imagination; in that respect, it dwarfs later science fiction and fantasy. Tolkien and Lovecraft and early sword and sorcery pulp writers all borrowed a great deal of imagery and mood from it; Minas Morgul is the House of Silence rebuilt, and the volcanic and ashen desolation of Mordor owes much to the magma-lit and poisoned emptiness of the Night Land, and the chill dread of the Ringwraiths to Hodgson’s silent Shrouded Ones; Lovecraft’s more abstract horrors are the love-children of Hodgson’s pneumavores and the alien gods of late nineteenth-century horror, and the mood of cosmic, existential horror is something he gets directly from Hodgson, who was less racist than H.P. (by a lot) and probably more sexist; Conan and Jirel of Joiry both fought the offspring of the Night Land’s monsters; Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance both wrote their own night lands in response. The Night Land stands in the distant past of the genre like the Watching Thing in its own pages: grotesque, immense, unmoving, a brooding presence watching a tortured landscape.

The Night Land is both obnoxiously brilliant in its imagination and command of mood, and obnoxiously bad in its treatment of its characters. It is also famously difficult to read, though I think that difficulty is overstated; I personally don’t mind baroque and archaic prose at all, but then, I am an odd duck who once wrote a dissertation on Shakespeare and seventeenth century drama, and who gets more joy out of Homer and Sappho than Hemingway or Heinlein or Asimov.

No, the flaw isn’t really the prose; it’s the author’s shipwrecked commitment to writing an erotic story in the second half of his fantasy novel, impaired by a complete inability to do so. He has a thirteen-year-old Edwardian-era virgin’s idea of how to write a woman or scenes of romantic love, and those parts are just obnoxiously bad. Really obnoxiously bad. His hero and heroine are intended to have a BDSM relationship, but while in another writer’s hands that would be romantic and exciting, in William’s hands… well, there’s only so many pages of ‘she giggled and was most full of Naughtiness, and I did spank her again, as you will understand surely’ that a reader can take.

So I don’t usually recommend The Night Land as a read for my readers, but I mention it as a key influence on the worlds and mood in my fiction. It was the first of the ‘dying earth’ genre, and as a younger writer I wanted to create stories in the dark world of The Night Land, where, millions of years in the future, the Last of Humanity (consisting of the survivors and descendants of every culture on earth) hold cosmic horrors at bay with only heroism, love, and spinning saws that flare and flash in the dark. So in 2014 I wrote Ansible 15715 as a kind of fan fiction (an origin story about the arrival of the pneumavores on our earth); then I wrote another story, and another. And if The Night Land tells the middle of the story of that far-future world, the Ansible Saga — Ansible: A Thousand Faces, consisting of ten episodes ranging from short story to novel in length — dissects and retells the middle and adds the origin and also the story of its end (and new beginning).

Photo of a hand holding a copy of the Ansible Saga omnibus

Ansible is an elegy for humanity as well as a horror fiction and a love story, and ultimately, against all odds, a tale of the possibility and triumph of love of the other. Like Hodgson’s original, it becomes, midway through, a love story charged with romance, but here the patriarchal power-fantasy hero-telepath and his inexplicably vapid spankette are replaced by a time traveling, shapeshifter, hijabi heroine-telepath and the bi, lesbian, and pan women who love and are loved by her across millons of years of the defense of humanity and across transitions between bodies, species, and worlds. But the mood is intact, and the theme of love and courage when faced with what absolutely appears to be the final dark, in a tale that pendulum-swings between the extremes of utter and irrevocable loneliness and scenes of human intimacy that can survive any nightfall. Like the villain of Ansible 15718 (the fifth of the ten chapters in Ansible), in writing this saga, I devoured what I loved (The Night Land) and took up residence inside its shell and carcass — but I hope that, like the heroines of Ansible, I sung such a song of fresh beauty inside that shell. It is, though, ultimately less fan fiction than a fan-hijacking, where The Night Land becomes a chrysalis for a new tale that nonetheless consists chemically of all the ingredients of the original.

Now Ansible: A Thousand Faces is finished, and has been finished for eleven months. You can find it here: https://stantlitore.com/product/ansible-thousand-faces/ I think it’s my best work. (So far.) If Jurassic Park inspired (at a distance) my dinosaur fiction, and The Night of the Living Dead provoked my Zombie Bible, The Night Land became the rough map across which my Ansibles traveled. It’s The Night Land reimagined from another century’s perspective (our own).

Now I return to read The Night Land a third time, in all its beauties and its awfulness too. I read it for the high-voltage charge it gives to my imagination, making ideas explode in the sky of my mind like dying stars. Again I will curl up in a blanket on the barren Downward Slope with X, alone in a world of total darkness, listening in the terrible silence for the faint, longing telepathic call of the beloved, somewhere out there across the emptiness of a dead world; again I will peer out through the telescopes mounted above humanity’s last library; again I will gaze up in wonder at a crashed spaceship, derelict on a tower of rock for four million years, a relic of humanity’s voyages; again I will stand on the decks of the walking cities, following the dying sun forever westward during the long centuries of the earth’s slowing rotation. And who knows what ideas will drive me to my notebook to scribble and sketch and muse, this time.

I would like to think, maybe a little arrogantly – or maybe just hopefully – that my own Ansible: A Thousand Faces will have that very effect on some other readers and writers, while proving considerably less difficult to read. From the beginning of the earth to the end of the universe and beyond, from a telepathic gift to the australopithecines to a pitched battle in a future of forever night, from a medieval library (in what’s now Uzbekistan) to an alien planet of rain forests populated by sentient trees, Ansible is my imagination run loose and amuck, with all of time and space as its canvas, and I hope you will enjoy the story, which is about the story of humanity as an ever-changing and neverending song, endlessly varied yet woven on one chorus of hope and community, through all of time. And I think you may fall in love with Sahira and Rasha and the Sentinel of the Night Land and their companions. They have quite a story to share with you.

Stant Litore

P.S. You can find The Night Land everywhere; it is 109 years old and public domain. There is also a fandom site for it — https://nightland.website/index.php/artwork/image-galleries — with fan fiction and art depicting The Night Land. A little music, too.

You can find Ansible: A Thousand Faces here:

Paperback: https://stantlitore.com/product/ansible-thousand-faces/

Ebook: https://stantlitore.itch.io/ansible-omnibus

Audiobook, performed by the talented Amy McFadden: https://www.audible.com/pd/Ansible-A-Thousand-Faces-Audiobook/B08KTT9WP2

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Wild Adventures This Summer (Stant Litore on Audiobook)

Stant Litore on audiobook - photo shows a listener with headphones against pink background - photograph by Elice Moore on Unsplash

Hi everyone! I want to ask you to check out my science fiction and fantasy audiobooks, because they’re amazing. They’re read by star narrator Amy McFadden (and a couple by the talented Laila P and Yi Ming Sofyia Xue), and they include:

Find them all here: https://www.audible.com/author/Stant-Litore/B006AC98GY

Starting this year, I will also be releasing some additional audiobooks read by me. In the docket: Lives of Unforgetting; the rest of The Zombie Bible; Dante’s Heart; Dante’s Rose; Lives of Unstoppable Hope; On the Other Side of the Night; Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget; Write Worlds Your Readers Won’t Forget. Now that the house isn’t burning down or flooding and my children are safely out of the hospital, I’ll be resuming audiorecording in my home studio tonight. Meanwhile, come listen to the twelve audiobooks that are already up! They are adventures you’ll never forget.

Stant Litore

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The “Proverbs 31 Wife” is Not the “Virtuous Woman” but the “Daring Woman”

Still life of a beautiful old book and a rose in a wineglass

(Nothing in this excerpt will surprise my Jewish readers, but I wish more of my other readers knew! tl;dr: The Hebrew “eshet chayil” in Proverbs 31 does not mean “virtuous woman” in the modern sense, far from it. It means “woman of valor” or daring woman.)

Proverbs 31, from a Hebrew wisdom text, has been treated as one basis for defining “family values” in some Christian communities in the U.S., and has frequently been put to the purpose of subjugating women and validating rigid gender hierarchy. In most Christian translations of Proverbs 31, men are told to praise and admire “the virtuous woman” or “the good woman” (or, in a few versions, the “capable woman” or the “capable wife”). But the Hebrew eshet chayil does not mean “virtuous woman.” It means “woman of valor.” (Jewish translations into English, such as the JPS, get this right.)

In his annotations to The Hebrew Bible, Robert Alter parses the word like this: “…vigor, strength, worth, substance. It is a martial term transferred to civic life.” He also notes the word shalal (“prize, loot”) in the line that follows: “The heart of her husband trusts her / and no prize does he lack” (Proverbs 31:11). It is as though the woman of valor is being compared to a victorious warrior returning home with spoils after war. (In fact, in this metaphor, the husband is the one awaiting the spoils-laden return of the warrior who has his heart; the gender roles a modern reader would expect are flipped.)

In our English Bibles, we often get “virtuous,” “good,” or other adjectives suggestive of moral character because the translation committee commissioned by King James I four centuries ago translated eshet chayil in this way. Because that Authorized Version became our sacred text, future committees have dutifully followed suit. But in the seventeenth century, the word “virtuous” made somewhat more sense; the Victorians hadn’t yet gotten their hands on the word (and wouldn’t for another 250 years). At the time, “virtuous” still suggested the Italian virtù, meaning manliness, purposeful action, and bravery—not moral purity or goodness. Vir is Latin for “man,” and we get from it not only the English word virtue but also virility. The “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31 is the very same woman whom the King James translation tells us is clothed “in strength and honor,” like a warrior (Proverbs 31:25).

However, the Hebrew eshet chayil doesn’t suggest manliness or masculinity. It suggests valor. The woman of Proverbs 31 is brave, persistent, audacious, resourceful, and ready for anything. In that chapter, we find her running a business. We find her planning for the future, charting a course toward her dreams. A more apt translation of eshet chayil into contemporary English may well be “a daring woman.” Or at least, we could adopt the Jewish translation and go with “valorous woman”; it is far more accurate.

What I want us to notice is the wide gap between the “daring,” bold woman and the “virtuous,” well-behaved woman. This gap persists in our modern Bibles for two reasons. First, the fact that the meanings of many words have shifted dramatically over the past four hundred years, so that words that meant one thing to the readers of King James’ 1611 Authorized Version often convey something completely different to us now. Second, we bring with us into the Bible, eisegetically, a bias from our own culture and our religious tradition, an expectation that in those pages we will find meek, submissive women—and instructions for women to be subservient beings. In reality, little of that is in the text. That’s in us; we bring it with us when we translate or read the book. We insert it because we expect it. And once it’s there, it gets used within our religious communities to justify and reinforce a subjugation and marginalization of women that may be faithful to the nineteenth-century Victorian ideal of “the angel in the house” but that is unbiblical and anachronistic.

I wish to remind my fellow Christians: you and I, we did not become Christians to learn from the Victorians or to run our households in the Victorian way. That’s not why we’re here.

– Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible

You can find a related post here: The Misleading Translation of “Wives, Submit,” … and a Tale of Battle-Ready Women

You can find the book here in my bookshop:
https://stantlitore.com/product/unforgetting/

Or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere…

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The Simple Joys: Reading The Hobbit with My Daughter

A photo of pages from The Hobbit

River and I decided we’re going to reread Tolkien, from the start, from The Hobbit. While we read together this afternoon with Inara listening, River sang the dwarves’ song with me.

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day
To seek our pale enchanted gold…

And it is the simple joys like that which get us through the longest year. What have your simple joys been, amid the griefs of the year?

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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The Year of the Pandemic: A Year With No Months, But With Many Stories

Etymology of understanding - Photo of a woman gazing out

What a strange year it’s been, my friends. I’ve started measuring time in stories told and stories enjoyed, because I can hardly keep track of the calendar months (decades?) since last March.

So for my children and I, the months were Dark Crystal, Avatar, Korra, She-Ra, and RWBY. I can tell you about our experiences in each of those months. I can tell you about the months of my own stories told: the months of Ansible, Dakotaraptor Riders, and On the Other Side of the Night.

But I can’t tell you what June was like, nor September. Did June actually exist?

April existed.

Last April was the cruelest month. I lost someone important to me in April.

For the rest, I’ll just remember the months of the stories my children and I shared together.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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Into the Library

Comma splice - image of books lying open

I love libraries.

When the pandemic has passed, I am going to spend so much time at the library.

Many moments that have stayed with me from stories I’ve loved are scenes about fictional libraries. There is, for example, the library of Bastian Balthazar Bux in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, that the child Bastian visits, where he finds the collected volumes of all the stories and dreams he has ever imagined but hasn’t written down – “and the walls were lined with tiers upon tiers of books.”

And there is Ultan’s Library, in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun:

“We have books here bound in the hides of echidnes, krakens, and beasts so long extinct that those whose studies they are, are for the most part of the opinion that no trace of them survives unfossilized. We have books bound wholly in metals of unknown alloy, and books whose bindings are covered with thickset gems. We have books cased in perfumed woods shipped across the inconceivable gulf between creations – books doubly precious because no one on Urth can read them. We have books whose papers are matted of plants from which spring curious alkaloids, so that the reader, in turning their pages, is taken unaware by bizarre fantasies and chimeric dreams. Books whose pages are not paper at all, but delicate wafers of white jade, ivory, and shell; books too whose leaves are the desiccated leaves of unknown plants. Books we have also that are not books at all to the eye: scrolls and tablets and recordings on a hundred different substances. There is a cube of crystal here – though I can no longer tell you where – no larger than the ball of your thumb that contains more books than the library itself does. Though a harlot might dangle it from one ear for an ornament, there are not volumes enough in the world to counterweight the other. All these I came to know, and I made safeguarding them my life’s devotion… In the library is a room reserved for children. In it are kept bright picture books such as children delight in, and a few simple tales of wonder and adventure. Many children come to this room, and as long as they remain within its confines, no interest is taken in them. From time to time, however, a librarian remarks a solitary child, still of tender years, who wanders from the children’s room … and at last deserts it entirely. Such a child eventually discovers, on some low but obscure shelf, The Book of Gold. Unless my memory betrays me, the cover is of black buckram, considerably faded at the spine. Several of the signatures are coming out, and certain of the plates have been taken. But it is a remarkably lovely book. I wish that I might find it again… The child, as I said, in time discovers The Book of Gold. Then the librarians come – like vampires, some say, though others say like fairy godparents at a christening. They speak to the child, and the child joins them. Henceforth he is in the library whenever he may be, and soon his parents know him no more.”

When I wrote Ansible: A Thousand Faces, I resolved to add a library of my own to the list of fictional, imagined archives. So I added the Memory Blossom. It is humanity’s last library, at the end of time, and as humanity is at risk of dying, those who battle for our descendants’ survival battle also to defend the library. Those words – DEFEND THE LIBRARY – are written in Arabic over the entrance. And the reader first encounters the library during a battle just inside the door:

“Two sentinels run up the steps, one passing me on my left, one on the right. One black and one white with a shock of red hair. A woman’s language or continent of origin does not matter to Lucia, only her willingness to defend humanity’s children. They take up positions at either side of the door, Saws ready. I climb to meet them, wiping blood from my brow, a thunder-beat of fury in my heart. Every tome in my library has a digital sister, written invisibly into the archives that live in the walls and cannot be burned or broken, but those books that died behind us in a blaze of bullets were crafted with great labor by human hands, by hands whose owners will never again speak or make, whose names may not even be remembered. And the books are but the smaller part of humanity’s memory. A glance back as I climb, and I see some of the bullets have passed across the rotunda into the Memory Blossom, long, stacked cases of bioglass that—when gazed into from the level above us—together resemble the shape of an unfolding rose, of memory unfolding at the touch of the love of the living, the way a rose unfolds at the touch of sunlight. The cases hold and preserve not books but other artifacts rescued from a dying earth, objects brought here by the wives and husbands and brothers and mothers of the beloved dead because these were objects the dead cherished—the dolls and pocketwatches and earmusic implants and squares of colorful fabric orphaned from lost quilts, thimbles and photographs and crucifixes and scraps of paper with Daoishi spells inked on them, and even a long-dead artificial heart. Bioglass does not shatter, but I can see the perfect circular punctures where the bullets penetrated. Inside one of the cases, a tiny sculpture of blown glass that someone—perhaps the craftsman’s child—carried lovingly across the forests of Persia or the deserts of the Sudan, all the way here, has shattered. Its shape, which was that of an elephant, is fragmented; it can’t ever be put back together. Leaning half against the violated case, a young woman lies dead, her face shattered as completely as the elephant. A death that should not have happened today.”

What is your favorite fictional library?

The Memory Blossom was a concept my readers and I developed together on Patreon, which I often treat as a workshop to cook up and test ideas that then work their way into the stories – because storytelling is a communal act. The idea was how might our descendants, after devastating global crisis and near extinction, preserve the memory and knowledge of their pasts – how might they do this as they grieve? And when one of my readers (the thoughtful and lovely Genevieve Bergman) reminded us that refugees carry memories of the past that are encoded in objects and relics and photographs of the lost, not only in texts, the Memory Blossom was planted. I like how it grew.That is the kind of conversation my readers and I have on Patreon, as each book takes shape. Come join us there – get all the ebooks, fun the books, and help me create a fictional library or a bizarre device or a dangerous new creature. You never know what delicious mischief we might get up to, together. You can join here:

https://www.patreon.com/stantlitore

I hope you will.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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New Release from Stant Litore

Well, here we are. 2021. I think, looking back at the onslaught of the past year – and looking ahead at the hard work of the new year, my energy is very Yang Xiao Long (from RWBY): “Yeah, I’m scared…but I’m still standing here.”

If you need an escape after 2020 – and you want to see what I’ve been writing during the pandemic – here is a new book: Incursion. It’s the first book in a new series, The Dakotaraptor Riders!

From the back cover:

Looking for a thrilling tale with lesbian dakotaraptor riders, were-brachiosaurs, Slavic witches, triceratops cowboys, carnivorous cacti, and invaders with machine guns mounted on deathreaper tyrannosaurs?

If you’ve been looking for a series like that, Stant Litore has your back. In Incursion, join Sasha Nightwatcher and her wife Yekaterina on a wild dash across the violet prairie to save their alien homeworld.

You can pre-order here. The paperback edition will be available for order later this month.

Or back my work on Patreon and start reading it today with your membership.

A bit from the book:

Here’s a passage from the book that I feel keenly here at the end of one year and the start of another:

In my memory, I have just fallen from Ihira’s back at high speed and I am winded. Ihira stands nearby in the grass, waiting for me. Mom reaches her hand down, but I don’t take it. I can’t, Mother. I can’t.

Her voice is deep and melodic, a voice for braiding up the night with. Yes, you can.

I keep falling. It’s too hard.

Get up, daughter.

Just let me lie in the grass a moment, Mom.

She crouches beside me, hands between her knees. She looks at me. Her hair is black as night, her eyes gray as steam rising from the flanks of a ceratopsian herd. Her face and hands are wrinkled and strong and kind. She moves them, signing as she talks, as our people often do. You keep falling, do you?

Yes, Mom. Tears of shame burn against my eyelids.

You know what you have, Sasha?

I shake my head.

She takes my hand in hers, presses the smooth metal surface of the Founder’s book into my palm, closes my fingers over its pages. The book is still warm from her hand. You have a bruised hip, two bruised ribs, a cut lip, dirt on your cheek. And you have the Founder’s book and your mother’s stories and the blood of a nightwatcher in your body, and you have a whole lot of hope in your heart. You have hope, Sasha. That’s what you have. Hope. It’s the best thing that ever was or ever will be. Spun from stories, stronger than medicine, older than this world. Hope is what braids our lives together. Hope carried our people between planets and hope carries us through the red rain and hope will carry you. So will Ihira. Now get on your feet, daughter, and get in her saddle and ride.

REVIEWS:

“Straight for the heart and delightfully weird.” – Joseph Brassey, author of Skyfarer and Dragon Road

“Stant Litore’s Incursion brings a new and fantastic universe alive, packed with vivid characters and colossal beasts—yet amidst the story’s intense action and swirling dilemmas, he never loses sight of his raison d’être: the power of human connection.” – Richard Ellis Preston, Jr., author of Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders

“In these dark days, we need reminders of what makes us human: community and song, collaboration, story and hope. The Dakotaraptor Riders gives us those reminders. Woven onto the warp and weft of a rich folklore that feels completely authentic, and yet contains threads that will make contemporary folklorists grin, this tale of clashing philosophies, racing dakotaraptors, and abiding love is a salve for a wounded soul. It reminds us not only that the fight can be won, but that the fight is worth waging against the forces of destruction, of cruelty and colonialism. This book is The Dark Is Rising for science fiction. Read it, and let it braid your frayed threads whole again.” – O.E. Tearmann, author of The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

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New Book from Stant Litore: On The Other Side of the Night

New from Stant Litore: On the Other Side of the Night (How Science Fiction and Fantasy Can Help Us Through Our Dark Hour)

“We are enduring the long night. Our people are ill and dying of a new disease. Our societies, at home and abroad, are beset by fascism—a shadow that, like Sauron’s in Mordor, has found new opportunity to take shape and grow again. Climate change sends devastating heat waves, forest fires, and hurricanes to our shores. At every hour, faces on television and voices on Twitter are telling us to fear, fear, fear, like the drumbeat of our heart going too fast. Tragically, because death or extinction is too terrifying, because disease and ecological disaster are too frightful, we turn our fears on each other instead. Those others, they are what we must fear, our leaders and too many of our storytellers insist. We are being asked to accept small-minded stories that make our hearts smaller, when we are in most need of larger stories that make our hearts bigger.

“When this time passes, if we strive only to ‘go back’ to how things were, to the injustices and unsustainable complacency that constricted our society before the pandemic, then we will be the most pitiable of fools. This is a time to imagine better, improbable, impossible futures. How we make it through this long night together will be dependent on the stories we tell and the stories we are willing to hear, as we face each other across the fire with our backs to the long dark. There are gifts of hope tucked inside these tales like trinkets or treasures tucked inside nested Russian dolls. Here, I’ll show you what I mean. Come closer to the fire. Let’s talk.”

Find the book here, in paperback and kindle editions: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HXBPTJG

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She-Ra, Cleaning the Couch, and a Day at House Litore

River, my ten-year-old, was cleaning under the couch and was getting frustrated, so I told her she’s doing a better job at it than the Princesses of Power and the Best Friends Squad would.

“Really?” she asked.

“Yep! Just think. Princess Plumeria would see the problems under that couch and be like, ‘I will plant potatoes and strawberries and GIANT PURPLE FLOWERS in this couch!’ Poof. Potatoes everywhere. And pretty flowers. But STILL a mess. And Mermista would be like, ‘Ugh, really, I’ve got this, I mean, if it has to be done, I guess,’ and would lift her arms like this and SPLASH, FLOOD THE COUCH with waves and dolphins and little wriggly jellyfish, but it would still be a mess, just a wet mess. And Frosta would be like, ‘Stand back, princesses!’ ZAP! and the couch would be FROZEN.”

River: “Oh no! It would freeze your BUTT if you sat on it!”

Me: “Yep. It sure would. Not a good solution. And Bow would shoot an arrow at the couch…”

River: “And the couch would be covered in green goo!”

Me: “Yep. And Glimmer would be like SPARKLE SPARKLE SPARKLE! TAKE THAT EVIL COUCH! AAAAA! SPARKLE SPARKLE!!!! and it would be the shiniest messy couch in the universe. Even the dirt would be shiny.”

River: “Ew! Shiny dirt!”

Me: “And Adora would swing her sword and shout FOR THE HONOR OF GRAYSKULL and she’d be like, I’m gonna SHE-RA HEAL THIS COUCH!!! except Chop, slash, chop, she’d cut the couch in two!”

River: “Then there’d be TWO dirty couches!”

Me: “Yep. And then Catra shows up and she’s like, ‘Heyyyy Adora,’ and she tries to take care of the couch but she goes Scratch, Scratch, Scratch, and now the couch is all cut up…”

River: “Hahahahaha!”

Me: “And Catra goes ‘ARRRRRGHHHHH THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING, here, Scorpia, you do it.’ And Scorpia is like, ‘Yes! I’m on it! I’ve got to do this for Catra! Clack! Clack! Wow, this is really hard when you’re a scorpion princess and you don’t have hands, clack! clack! Don’t worry, Catra, I’ve got this, anything for my Catra, clack! clack!'”

River: “Catra’s so mean.”

Me: “Yeah, she’s a REALLY bad friend.”

River: “But what about Entrapta? She has moving hair!”

Me: “Oh yeah, so Princess Entrapta designs a bunch of tiny robots that pick up all the crumpled papers and half-eaten cookies and then she hacks the code on the vacuum cleaner and names the vacuum cleaner Emily and it vacuums up all the dust while Entrapta hangs upside down from the ceiling watching and enjoys a plate of tiny food. And she monitors how long the job takes and correlates all the data and says things like, “For SCIENCE!” and is like, “Faaaaaaascinating.” And then the couch is clean and spotless and Entrapta’s already distracted and busy programming the fireplace to open portals to other planets. Entrapta’s got this. She’s a scientist. But you’re literally doing better with that couch than ANYone else on the Best Friends Squad.”

River: “Whoa.”

Me: “So. What did we learn from this?”

River: “Learn all the science!”

Me: “You got it, River-bear.”

________________________

Stant Litore writes fiction about gladiators on dinosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, and time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future, as well as books about ancient Greek and sacred texts. He also teaches intensive crash courses for writers on character development and worldbuilding. You can find all of that on this website.

Young River is awesomeness incarnate. She likes She-Ra, mathematics, mysteries, and rockclimbing.

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4 Stant Litore Omnibuses: So Much Story!

You can get four Stant Litore series now in four omnibus editions!

The Zombie Bible
Biblical tales retold as episodes in humanity’s long struggle against hunger … and the hungry dead. This omnibus includes Death Has Come Up into Our Windows, What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, Strangers in the Land, No Lasting Burial, and I Will Hold My Death Close.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942458207
Direct store: https://stantlitore.itch.io/zombiebible

Ansible: A Thousand Faces
A hijabi shapeshifter and her band of time travelers stand between humanity and the long dark. This omnibus includes Ansible: Season One, Ansible: Season Two, and Ansible: Season Three, the complete saga.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732086982
Direct store: https://stantlitore.itch.io/ansible-omnibus

Colosseums for Dinosaurs
In a far future dystopia, gladiators compete on dinosaurback aboard orbital space colosseums. This omnibus includes The Running of the Tyrannosaurs, Nyota’s Tyrannosaur, and The Screaming of the Tyrannosaur.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/173208694X
Direct store: https://stantlitore.itch.io/colosseums-for-dinosaurs

Dante’s Heart
Two linked novellas in which a monster hunter, a naiad, a geneticist, an immortal cyborg, a blind necromancer, and others embark on humanity’s last pilgrimage across a universe inhabited by marvels and torn by the violence of the past. This omnibus includes the duology Dante’s Heart and Dante’s Rose, with more than 20 full-color illustrations.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1732086915
Direct store: https://stantlitore.itch.io/dantes-heart

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Ansible: Season 3 is Here!

Book Cover: Ansible Season 3

HERE AT LAST: ANSIBLE SEASON 3. I am excited to announce the arrival of my new novel and the thrilling conclusion to the Ansible Saga!

Available today in kindle and epub at my direct store

Or pre-order on Amazon

Or get it in paperback

Audiobook forthcoming

In a future where humanity is a refugee species, can refugees from the past save us?

The pneumavores (“soul eaters”) have taken the earth and have spread to every planet humanity has ever touched. Now a Syrian refugee, a thirteenth-century librarian, and a hijabi shapeshifter from the far future must travel across space and time to defend humanity from this intergalactic and devouring evil.

They’ll find allies: A wheelchair gunslinger from far-future Beijing. A legion of women soldiers wielding Spinning Saws that can slice through predators that only barely exist inside our universe. A strange child-empath who can hear all of humanity’s suffering at every instant in history. A firestarter-goddess from our prehistory. Together, they will face a species that travels across time and feeds on terror itself.

The battle for our future starts today.

Ansible Season Threehttps://stantlitore.itch.io/ansible-season-three

Get Season One here: https://stantlitore.itch.io/ansible-season-one

Get Season Two here: https://stantlitore.itch.io/ansible-season-two

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Thank You, Medical Professionals

I am not the President of the United States. If I were, I would probably be tweeting. And what I would be tweeting would be information and stories about how exhausted doctors in New York are working long hours and fighting for their patients’ lives. I’d be thanking the nurses who watch patient after patient die and retreat to cry in private. I’d be talking about the medical students who have graduated early to be drafted into Operation Kick Pandemic Ass. I’d be talking about more junior med students who are volunteering as gophers to run errands, provide childcare, deliver coffee and food, and otherwise take care of medical personnel who don’t even have time to sit down. I would tweet things that our medical personnel need to hear right now. I’d let them know we have their back. I’d let all those paramedics and RNs and LPNs know that they’re going to get affordable access to health insurance or student loan relief and all the PPE I can find for them because by God do they ever deserve the help right now. I’d give them a number to call if they’re feeling hopeless and suddenly alone in the dark because they just watched too many patients die, because I wouldn’t want to lose them to despair or suicide. I’d let them know we’re thinking about them and that their country thanks them for their service. If I regarded myself as a “wartime President,” I’d be thanking our “military” in scrubs profusely, and I’d be telling our people about who our heroes are. At 8 p.m. each night, I’d say, “LET’S GO HOWL FOR THE MEDICAL PEOPLE, AMERICANS!” and I’d post a video of me and my family howling. Because if I was going to be silly on Twitter, I’d be silly for a good purpose. That’s what I would do if I were President.

As a private citizen, I’ll say to the medical people who are among my contacts and whose time reading blogs or Facebook has been limited by how overwhelmed many of them are: Thank you for everything you’re doing. My family and I thank you for your service. We’re so glad we’ve got you. Thank you.

Stant Litore

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Gratitude

A candle for gratitude

Here are a few things I am thankful for right now. Just a few, I can list more later. Because gratitude is the enemy of despair and a curative for fear. And because my faith teaches me to unforget what I have been given, whether my community is experiencing sunlight or hailstorm.

I am grateful for a house full of books.

For this soft bed, when I am fatigued.

For friends who gather around us in a rough season.

For my strong wife, a fierce partner when there’s a crisis. And whose voice is soft and lovely this morning. I am thankful the house is quiet and she could sleep in.

I am grateful for my readers, who love the stories and have amazing and unexpected stories of their own.

I am grateful for my Patreon members, who keep this wild endeavor of mine funded and help keep the children fed and well.

I am grateful for the talent and skill of our local medical community. I am thinking especially of Inara’s doctors and providers.

I am grateful for Inara’s fierceness, Cirdan’s kindness, and River’s laughter.

I am thankful for this very warm blanket right now.

I am thankful for this bookmark, which reminds me where I left off and keeps me from falling into the barbarism of folding down the corners of pages. (Shudder.)

I am grateful we have clean water to drink.

I am grateful I get to tell all of you stories.

Stant

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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Nitocris, the Babylonian Queen Who Doesn’t Have Time for Your Nonsense

The Gate of Babylon

The Queen of Babylon was sharp of wit, full of sass, and had exactly zero patience for the follies of men in power. Upon Nitocris’s death, at her orders her body was placed in a tomb directly over the main gate of the city, with the consequence that many kings chose to go around the back way rather than risk the ill luck of passing in all their panoply beneath a corpse. On the outside of her tomb was an inscription telling the kings that would rule after her time that a great treasure was laid within her tomb: “If any king of Babylon is short of cash, let him open up my tomb and take what he likes, but only at the most dire need. The treasure will do him no good if taken under other circumstances.” For a long time the tomb of Nitocris went undisturbed. At last, Darius had it broken open; he was irritated that he always had to enter the city by the back way like a man of lesser station, and it galled him that there was a treasure there just waiting to be taken. So he violated Nitocris’s tomb. Inside, he found not so much as a single coin. Just a corpse. And an inscription beside it:

If you hadn’t been such a greedy jerk, willing to grab money by any despicable means, you would never have violated the rest of the dead. —Nitocris.

The tale is from Herodotus, so it may or may not have actually happened; it isn’t always easy to corroborate Herodotus, a fact that he himself freely acknowledges. The “father of historians,” he had a way of collecting stories, including contradictory ones, presenting them each to the reader, and inviting the reader to consider which were likely and which were not. The tale of Nitocris is among my many favorites.

_______________________

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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What is a Comma Splice? (And Other Tales of Grammar and Cosmic Horror)

Comma splice - image of books lying open

What is a comma splice?

CW: Grammar and Gore

Like the mighty Dickens before me, I will use a comma splice if I judge the time right, if the stars are aligned and it is time to afflict grammarians with madness and woe as they gaze helplessly into the abyss of a cosmos that is uncaring of our punctuation and our futile attempts at order. However, I can never do so without also at that moment remembering the words of an English teacher who cautioned me and my fellow teaching assistants in an effort to prevent our venturing into such unwholesome magic.

This is what she said:

“I need to tell you what a comma splice is like. This is what it’s like. Picture a big ole snow slope and there’s a sled about to plummet down that slope like a greased piglet, and there’s this little child. The sled slips and the child reaches out and grabs hold of that sled and tries to stop it and you know what happens? I will TELL you what happens. That big ole sled just RIPS the child’s arm right off, and the sled careens on down the hill like a politician running from a scandal and the child’s arm is just flapping in the wind and spraying blood all over the snow, blood everywhere, just geysers of blood! Now imagine it had been a grown man on the hill instead and he reached out and grabbed hold of that ole sled and it stopped. It stopped because that man was strong enough to hold it, unlike the poor child bleeding out in the snow while his arm is off down the hill waving at the angels. See, that grown man is a semicolon and he could stop that independent clause dead in its tracks, but that poor child was just a comma. So every time you see a stray comma flapping in the breeze between two independent clauses where it has no earthly business being, you just remember that child’s arm spraying blood. That’s a comma splice. Now go teach your students that. They won’t forget it.”

Between the comma splice child, and the unclosed parenthesis just lurking around like a flasher in a trenchcoat bothering good people who just want to go about their sentences, and the sentence with passive voice that was like a lonely grad student who went camping and was expecting her boyfriend to meet her but a bear came first and ripped off half her face and took out one of her eyes and ate her, and after the mauling they found the body but not the bear, and nobody knew who or what had torn the poor grad student to pieces and cracked her bones for the marrow, because her sentence used the passive voice and only had a direct object and no subject, a body without any visible agent of its demise…

Well, between those things, I did not leave the assistantship unscathed. (My first published fiction was horror.)

The ways of punctuation proved dark and terrifying and fascinating and full of grim and grisly truth, like a Flannery O’Connor story, but for our teacher, proper punctuation was our line of defense, and our students’, against the otherwise inevitable predations of a lawless and hungry universe. I remain, as she predicted, both appalled and unforgetful.

Stant Litore

_______________________

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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A First Read for the New Year

Cover: No Lasting Burial
Hi readers! If you loved Lives of Unforgetting, I’d like to suggest No Lasting Burial for your first read in the new year. It is my best book. It features a dying city. A lake where the fish have disappeared and the dead lurk underwater. A one-armed woodcarver in search of love. An outcast rebel with a cause, a battle-horn, and a scar for each of the dead he’s sent home. A widow fighting for the lives of her sons, who gave birth in a tomb so soldiers wouldn’t find her and the child. A disgraced priest, tormented by the night his people were attacked and he ran away. A fisherman-poet who dreams of the night he heard angels calling to each other across the hills. A homeless migrant who needs her voice back, if anyone will listen. And a traveling miracle-worker with dirt on his face and ears that hear every cry of pain and grief in every century, and who starts stirring everything that’s dead and unburied…